Traveling with just one bag was my first step to living simply.
Living with so little on the road was freeing; being surrounded by what I'd hoarded back home was draining. The desire to feel just as free at home eventually led to tackling the stuff I'd stockpiled over the years.
And since bringing you all along for the ride helped keep me accountable, I started No Mess Mondays every last Monday of the month: a real honest "No, I do not tidy before I snap these photos." walkthrough as I go from hoarding to minimal living in my home.
Today happens to be the last Monday of November, friends!
But since today finds me in the middle of a 2-week trip down in New Zealand and Australia, let's do something different.
Let's look over what I've packed for this trip, how it's been so far with only these things, plus what I regret bringing/not bringing from home.
The shots below might not be befores and afters of my home, but seeing how little I bring with me without feeling deprived shows us the same thing my home in progress does:
You might get a glimpse of why my traveling lifestyle inspired me to minimize at home.
(Oh, and speaking of home, the photos below were shot in a gorgeous Airbnb I stayed in in Queenstown. Thanks to my host, Carla; it was lovely!)
What I'm Packing For
Before I pack, I always find out more about the trip I'm taking so I know what to take. This is when I check weather forecasts, my travel itinerary, packing lists on travel websites, and tips on travel forums.
I'm going to be in Australia and New Zealand in the spring with temps ranging from 8 to 34°C (46-93°F). Some days will be hot and sunny, some windy and cloudy, and some wet and rainy. Visiting lakes and mountains also means being ready for insects --- something I'm super allergic to.
So I had to pack suitably for different climates and for both the city and short countryside hikes.
I need to cart this stuff around in a way that's convenient, right? But it also has to follow the luggage rules of various airlines, buses, trains, and whatnot I take throughout my trip.
So, here's what I carry everything in:
- Main bag. I've used different bags through the years but I'm happy with my Minaal Carry-on 2.0 right now. I could ramble for a whole extra post on this bag but in a nutshell, everything about it fits what I need on both my personal and work trips. (I also got it cheaper during their Kickstarter campaign two years ago, and discounts are always sweet!)
- Packing cubes. Minaal has some great ones, but I chose to adapt cubes I already used instead of buying new ones. (If you don't know what these are, they're basically little bags you can zip up your stuff in in a space-saving way.)
- Shoulder strap. This strap turns my main bag from backpack to messenger bag; I just have to hook it into the loops on the side of the backpack. Yes, Minaal has its own strap for sale, but same logic as the cubes: I didn't want to shell extra on a new strap, so I reused one I owned that vaguely matched.
- Day bag. This is not a work trip so I can take a fun bag out to play. I decided on my Darth Vader backpack. It's padded in the back and an icebreaker during trips. (It made the Customs people laugh when I landed in New Zealand --- #winning!)
The Clothes (a.k.a. The Flatlay From Hell)
Seriously friends, you can't imagine the whole production it took to get this shot together. Arranging and rearranging, swiping lamps to add more light to the shot... The people I was with on this trip thought I was crazy-anal at the end of the shoot. Or maybe just crazy about showing you every. Little. Thing.
(By the way, I'm looking at this photo and I just realized easily half of it's from Uniqlo. I find their intimates, HEATTECH thermals and socks, ultra light down jacket, and pocketable waterproof parka especially good value for what I've paid for them. I could get some higher quality options, sure, but they'd also be much much higher in price.)
So left to right from the top:
- 1 thermal shirt with long sleeves. I bring this when I'm headed to cold climates.
- 1 pair of thermal leggings. These too!
- 2 thin long-sleeved shirts. I generally layer these in the day and sleep in them too. They're really thin and dry quickly after washing.
- 1 packable waterproof parka. I used to carry an umbrella around, but I find my rain jacket works better when it's rainy and windy.
- 1 packable light down jacket. This packs small and light, but it's also really warm.
- 1 pair of jeans. My favorites on most days!
- 1 sleeveless buttondown shirt. Just to make my outfits more interesting, I often knot this polka-dotted buttondown over my shirts.
- 1 pair of comfy sleep pants. I sleep in these with one of my thin long-sleeves shirts.
- 3 pairs underwear. I did say I'd show you everything, right? *wink* I wear a pair and pack the other two.
- 2 pairs of thin leggings. I wear these under dresses and jeans when it feels nippy.
- 2 t-shirts. I generally don't bring light-colored shirts so stains aren't as noticeable.
- 1 cardigan. To wear in the evenings when I don't need my down jacket.
- 1 sleeveless dress. I can wear this over my shirts, or under my shirts to look like a skirt.
- 2 bras. I wear one and pack one. I also make sure they dry overnight after they're washed.
- 2 pairs of socks. Quick-drying pairs are my favorites. I also bring compression socks if I'll be doing a lot of walking.
- Jewelry. I generally have 2 pairs of earrings and the rings I wear everyday.
- 1 belt. This is for the jeans. Possibly the dress if I feel like cinching the waist.
- 1 circle scarf. This comes out when it's chilly. I also use it as a shawl on air-conditioned buses and planes.
You might have noticed I make sure everything I wear have colors in common. (In this instance, blues and grays, with a pop of maroon.) This means all my clothes match and I can have lots of outfits out of a few pieces of clothing.
The Shoes + All The Electric Things
So from the top left clockwise:
- Tablet with keyboard. Much lighter than the laptop I used to cart around! I use this older Microsoft Surface Pro for work and for blog stuff.
- A plug adapter. Australia and New Zealand has a very different outlet from my part of the world.
- Mouse. I sometimes don't take this along but this makes editing photos a lot easier.
- Tablet charger. This keeps my tablet (and indirectly, this website) running.
- Camera stuff. A no-brand padded camera box holds my Leica Q, 2 extra memory cards, 1 extra battery, and a card reader (that connects with my tablet). I just stick this box in my day bag.
- 1 pair sandals. Ditto on these light open-toed sandals for when it gets hot outside. They also double as rubber slippers wherever I've bedded down for the night. (I use the Crocs Sanrah sandals, and they're equally awesome in super-relaxed and less casual settings.)
- 1 pair trainers. These Nikes are my lightest and comfiest pair, so they get taken on a lot of trips.
- Plugs and cords. To charge my cellphone, my WiFi router, and camera batteries.
- Power strip. This pretty one from Muji juices up all my gadgets from one outlet safely. (Instead of trying to find lots of outlets, and needing lots of adapters!)
Toiletries + Laundry Tools
You'll notice I don't pack a lot of clothes; I prefer to wash often instead of carrying more clothes around. I usually do a mix of machine and hand washing every other day.
I pack a lot of toiletries, however. I put them in little jars and bottles that I can handcarry on planes. I was born with a lot of chronic allergies (eczema, contact dermatitis, and all the complicated medical words), and everything I bring helps me a lot.
From the top left clockwise:
- A portable laundry set. A friend gifted me this tiny square hanger and washboard set, and they come on all my trips. I use them for washing lingerie, socks, shirts, and leggings by hand every other day. I can't describe how useful they've been.
- Detergent. That blue bottle holds the detergent I like using. When I forget to bring it, I use a little shampoo instead.
- Stuff. This holds feminine things (napkins, etc.) just in case.
- A bottle of Febreeze. I spray this on my clothes when they could use a refresh, but aren't completely dirty yet.
- A boar bristle brush and dry shampoo. These are for in between hair washes, and keeping my hair from getting oily on long plane trips.
- Makeup remover towel. The lazy person's way of removing makeup: I just soak it in water and gently rub my face clean. (Yes, friends, it's marketed that way!)
- Sunscreen spray. I use this everyday and make sure it protects against all UV rays.
- Shampoo and conditioner. If not for my dyed hair, I would probably just use whatever shampoo's available. This combo means my dye job lasts twice as long though.
- Dental stuff. My floss, toothpaste and toothbrush for obvious reasons.
- Moisturizer and eye cream. That little white jar of moisturizer and that tube of eye cream come out to use before bed.
- Toiletry bag. Except for the laundry and hair stuff on the upper left, everything fits in here. I used to have a bigger one, but I downsized to this F1 Spacepak mini bag that's just the right size for me.
- 1 pack of wet wipes. Useful in public toilets or when I spill something on myself --- this happens a lot! I sometimes don't bring any and just grab a pack when I drop by a store.
- Face serum. I use this twice a day.
- Cleanser/toner for my face. Apple cider vinegar I've diluted. It cleans and dries up rashes related to my skin allergies.
- Deodorant. Self-explanatory, I believe.
- Allergy medicines. The pink and turquoise bottles are my everyday essentials. Without them, I can't function as well and I'm thankful for them.
- Insect repellent. This goes with me everywhere as I'm also allergic to insect bites.
- Comb. Again, self-explanatory.
- Quick-dry towel. I squeeze my newly washed clothes in this so they dry faster. (Google "sink laundry" if you're curious about how I hand wash while traveling. Lots of resources explain it in detail.) This also doubles as a blanket on longer budget plane flights.
The Other Essentials
I call these the other essentials as they're here for my comfort but not truly necessary.
In other words, I can live without them on my travels, but I'd be a bit more miserable.
Specifically, my makeup and travel-related stuff.
So, makeup. I never used to wear it, but with all the events that come with my sales job, it's become essential for me. I try not to put too much on, but it's nice to cover under-eye circles when I've had too little sleep on a busy trip. Or the pale skin, etc. that goes hand-in-hand with an allergy attack.
When I wear makeup yet still look like myself, I feel more me. That's enough reason to bring some of it along.
Again, from the top left:
- Foundation. Rather, the liquid highlighter, BB cream, and Clarins beauty flash balm I mix together on the back of my hand before applying with a sponge. I find mixing this cocktail means my foundation doesn't get too heavy; my skin also looks dewy the whole day.
- Brushes. My trusty powder / contour / blush / highlight tools go with me everywhere.
- Eyebrow pencil. So that I have actual eyebrows (ha!) that vaguely match whatever color my hair happens to be most days.
- Eyeshadow palette. I use this for work trips, and when I feel particularly fancy.
- Eyeshadow primer. This little jar keeps my eyeshadow on 'til evening.
- Compact powder + brush. I pop this in my day bag for when my face gets oily.
- Highlighter compact. I love this, especially when I'm a bit under the weather.
- Contour / blush palette. This adds color to my face everyday.
- Lippies. My lipstick and/or lip gloss are always with me, though I might forget to use them on busy days.
- Eye mask. My sister tells me I look funny sleeping with this on, but it helps me sleep so much better that I don't care.
- Ear plugs. So I don't get disturbed by crying babies or snoring roommates.
- Neck pillow + portable case. I take this along whenever I'm in transit. It makes plane, train, and bus rides super comfy, and packs into its case when I'm not using it.
What Isn't Pictured
- My portable WiFi router. It's a little black router about as big as a mobile phone. I can use it for the same rate in most countries; it's been convenient to have and cheaper on my wallet.
- My travel documents. Passport, visas, tickets, that kind of thing.
- My wallet. Where my cash and cards live.
- A pouch of odds and ends. Little things like extra allergy medicine, a pen and a notepad, my earphones, a power pack for emergency charging, a spare USB drive, and tissues.
- Nibbles. Sometimes, I have a packet of nuts or dried fruit for snacking.
That's everything. And it all fits, promise!
How I Pack It All In
First, I open the front compartment of my backpack and stick my clothes into the top mesh pocket. (Minus what I'm wearing, of course!)
My chargers and wires go in the bottom pocket.
I stick my laundry things and one pair of shoes in this green packing cube from Eagle Creek. There's also space in case I buy a few things on the trip.
My toiletry bag, neck pillow, and other travel things go on top of that.
I also make sure my liquid toiletries and medicines are in a Ziploc bag in the front pocket. This makes it easy to take them out during airport security checks.
The back compartment of my backpack is where I keep my tablet, my travel documents, and my makeup.
Darth Vader gets to carry a jacket, camera, mobile phone, snacks, and my pouch of odds and ends.
Whew, I'm all ready to go!
Everything I packed will take me through my whole trip + some extras I didn't need to bring besides. I've scattered shots of myself wearing/using what I've packed on this trip through the rest of this post.
Seriously, there are always extras I didn't need to bring.
I often regret packing a little too much / forgetting some stuff. Specifically, I wish:
- I'd brought sunglasses. I ended up buying a pair the first day I arrived; the sun is harsh in these parts.
- I'd left my sleep pants back home. I found sleeping in my thin shirts and leggings comfy, which means I didn't need to bring pajamas after all.
- I'm undecided if I should have left one t-shirt and my cardigan. They're nice to have but I easily had two weeks' worth of outfits without them.
There you have it, friends: basically how I pack and travel 2-3 weeks out of each month.
I make minor tweaks to this depending on the trip and season.
Like I might:
- add a pantsuit and switch to a more formal jacket and shoes when I'm traveling for a work trip.
- bring a turtleneck, sweater, and boots instead of a shirt, cardigan, and sandals in winter.
- switch one set of lingerie and the down jacket for a swimsuit and cover-up for summer.
The bones of my packing list don't change all that much.
When I do have to bring a rolling bag, it's full of work-related things I have to take to clients and/or friends but I rarely put my personal stuff in there. On planes, I wear most of my bulky things (coat, boots, sweater, and scarf), and everything else fits in my backpack and day pack.
Traveling like this is simple and less stressful. And like I've said before, it's what's inspired me to live more simply when I'm home in between trips.
I hope you've enjoyed seeing a bit of my life on the road, and it inspires you to pare down things in your own life.
Stay tuned every last Monday of the month as I continue to simplify my home.
Decades of hoarding unfortunately doesn't disappear as fast as I'd like, but seeing the progress is fun! Just click the button below if you want a front-seat view of my journey every other Wednesday at 8 am Pacific Time.